Jeremiah 18, Part 8

But they replied, “Don’t waste your breath. We will continue to live as we want to, following our own evil desires.” Jeremiah 18:12 NLT

Some people are going to reject God’s plans for their life. God will go to extreme measures to reach people, He may use you to attempt to reach them, but God will allow people the freedom to reject Him.

I think too many times, however, we spend more attention on others than we do on ourselves when it comes to obeying God.

Consider your life for just a moment. How compliant are you to the will of God for your life? Are you willing to follow God wherever He may lead? What if following God involves extreme sacrifice, which it most often will require you to do? Will you follow God then? If doing God’s will involves a total surrender of your life to Him will you still do His will?

You have the freedom to reject God’s plan for your life, at least on a short-term basis. Ultimately God is in control, but for today (if God tarries), you can live your life, as you want to live it. God’s heart, however, is seeking people who will say, as Jesus did, “not my will, but THY will be done”.

Does that describe your heart today? (Does it describe mine?)

What would you have to change in your life in order to completely follow God with all your heart?

A Little Change (Drama) Can Spur a Team to Victory

It’s a classic example. You’ve seen it happen many times. Your ball team is behind in the game. The referee makes what you and the rest of your team’s fans believe is a bad call. It energizes the crowd and the team and helps spur your team on to victory.

That example illustrates a principle of organizational dynamics also:

Sometimes a little change, even a little drama, will motivate a team into action.

If things are becoming dull or routine in your organization, as the leader you may need to stir up some change, even if it seems disruptive at the time. There are times to change just for the sake of creating more energy. This doesn’t mean you change your overall vision and your attempt should be to make a positive change, but if things are stagnating some change may be needed. It would almost be better to have a change that didn’t work than to allow things continue at a standstill.

I fully believe this principle is true. Knowing when to use it is obviously critical, but don’t allow fear of making a mistake keep you from doing the right thing. Ask yourself this question: If nothing changes in your organization, where will the momentum on your team be a year or two from now? If the answer isn’t what you want it to be, it may be time for some change.

Is this a hard principle for you or are you a lover of change?

Jeremiah 18, Part 7

“Therefore, Jeremiah, go and warn all Judah and Jerusalem. Say to them, ‘This is what the LORD says: I am planning disaster against you instead of good. So turn from your evil ways, each of you, and do what is right.” Jeremiah 18:11 NLT

As a follow up to yesterday’s devotional, sometimes God allows plans to change during the course of our life, but His end goal for our life will be accomplished. Throughout the course of our life, regardless of what happens to us, God is in ultimate control. When God told the Israelites that He was planning disaster against them, that wasn’t His ultimate end plan for His people, but rather something God was allowing so that He could work in the life of His people towards His end goal.

If you are in a difficult situation right now, God has allowed it. I wish I could sugarcoat that fact, but I cannot. God is in control. Sin in your life may have welcomed God’s discipline, trying to get you back on the right course for your life. . You may have done nothing wrong and your situation may simply be the result of living in a fallen world. God may be strengthening your faith through the trial and you’ll later understand His reasoning, but whatever the reason you are suffering, God allowed it. God’s sovereignty is going to work everything for good in your life through the trial. Additionally, even though you may not currently understand how He could, God is going to use this time for His glory and to accomplish His end goal for your life.

The best you and I can do when going through difficult times is to cling closer and stronger to God during the hard times. Trusting Him through the hardest times of life is called faith. Without faith, it’s impossible to please God. When faith is displayed…God must surely smile!

Have you noticed your faith growing more during the hard times than the good times of life?

10 Questions with Leader Richard Westley Johnson – Heritage Christian Church

Richard Westley Johnson is a Local Mission Pastor at Heritage Christian Church. Richard describes his role as being ”responsible for connecting the suburban church with practical and meaningful serving opportunities with the marginalized in our city.” I love the sound of that position.  He’s helping the church be the church.  You can follow Richard on Twitter HERE.

Here are 10 questions with Richard Westley Johnson:

When you were growing up, are you doing what you thought you would be doing vocationally? If not, what did you want to do?

I never wanted to be a pastor because my dad was a pastor, bi-vocational actually, and it just seemed to be a hard life. I went to college to become a chemical engineer.

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

I was Chuck-E-Cheese…the rat in the suit…or rather, the guy in the rat suit. I am still wondering how that helps me with shepherding others.

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

My father, the pastor, took me everywhere with him pray for others, preach revivals, sing in groups, bail troubled teens out of juvenile detention, fight for his marriage, encourage his children. My dad was an awesome example I hope to be for my children and brothers on the journey of life.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

The Journey to Success by John Maxwell…led me to pursue my dream and clarify my calling.

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

Relaxed, Empowering, Collaborative

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

Communication, vision-casting, releasing others

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

Practical steps, slow decision-making,

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

Let go of a staff report that I did not agree should be let go.

What is one misconception about your leadership position you think people may have?

My desire for inclusion of others is a mask for insecurity to be an independent leader.

If you could give one piece of advice to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

1 Peter 5:6 “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that he may lift you up in due time.” The time I’ve spent under senior leadership has prepared me for where God led me next and at the right season of my life and career God opened the door of opportunity for me. Wherever you are, stay humble.

I love Richard’s heart.  Reading his answers makes me think he is a great PK (pastor’s kid). What has your experience been as or with pastor’s children?

10 Questions with Leader Gerry True – Oak Hills Church

Gerry True is someone I know only online, his leadership resume is intense and he’s worked with some great leaders. Gerry is a Minister of Communication Arts leading four teams; Worship Arts, Production Arts, Creative Arts, and Technical Arts at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio. You can read more about him HERE.  You can follow Gerry on Twitter HERE. Just reading Gerry’s answers, I hope we bump into each other at a conference soon!

Here are 10 questions with leader Gerry True:

When you were growing up, are you doing what you thought you would be doing vocationally? If not, what did you want to do?

I had little direction in my life growing up… I simply wanted my own way. Never dreamed I would be a minister.

What’s the most different job you’ve had… how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

Making donuts – Lesson learned:
Hold on to opinions loosely and be teachable

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

Richard Crotts, a pastor of a small church and now a missionary in Papua New Guinea. He taught me to sacrifice and what it was to care deeply for others. He was Authentic.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

Orbiting the Giant Hairball

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

Believe in others

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

Valuing people more than the end product by inspiring team members to allow God to accomplish through them more than they ever dreamed possible.

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

My passion for achieving can be interpreted as pushy and sometimes leads to intimidation.

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

Allow people to learn through their failures.

What is one misconception about your leadership position you think people may have?

People may think that I love saying “no” or killing an “Idea”

If you could give one piece of advice to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

Intentionally invest in those you lead because God is preparing them for something He already has prepared for them. The really cool thing is that the leader gets to be part of helping equip other leaders for what God will use them to accomplish. Empower and then encourage.

Gerry sounds like an awesome relational leader.  What impresses you about his answers?

Jeremiah 18, Part 6

If I announce that a certain nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed, but then that nation renounces its evil ways, I will not destroy it as I had planned. And if I announce that I will build up and plant a certain nation or kingdom, making it strong and great, but then that nation turns to evil and refuses to obey me, I will not bless that nation as I had said I would. Jeremiah 18:7-10 NLT

Is this the same God talking that also said, “I the Lord do not change!”? Does God really change His mind? And, if God’s Word says that He has plans to bless and prosper me, will He change His mind on that as well? Can I really depend on a God who would change His mind?

To understand this passage, you must put it into context with the entirety of Scripture. Scripture should always interpret Scripture. First, God is Sovereign. Scripture is clear that God is overall in control. In the end, God wins every time. It is also important to understand that God has an ultimate plan and He is working all things towards that plan. What happens in between now and the completion of that plan is where God is sometimes “flexible”, for lack of a better term. God’s overall plan will not have changed in the end, but He may allow some altering of the path towards reaching the completion of His end plan.

I know that is confusing, so let me illustrate it like this. If you were to leave my house in Tennessee and head to my mother’s family in Kansas, there are several routes you could take to get there. Ultimately one route is probably best, but you could get there from several directions. In accomplishing God’s end goal for our life, God sometimes allows different courses of reaching that end goal.  God will even allow us to take turns that are not really His best plan for us. In that way, God has allowed His plan to be altered, but the overall end plan remains the same.

You and I may never fully understand how God has a sovereign plan and yet He allows us to make individual decisions for our life, but both are true in Scripture.  In the end, when this life is over, God’s plan for our life will succeed. Our best course of action today is to seek and get in on that plan!

For more thoughts on this concept, read THIS POST.

Middle School Camp…Wish They’d Let Me Go

The Grace Community Church middle school camp is this week. Thanks to our family pastor Michael Bayne for letting me grab this video from his blog. (I didn’t ask permission, so I hope he’s okay with this.) Our youngest son Nate is serving as student pastor this summer and so he’s at the camp and in the video. I wish they would let me go sometime. I’d show them a water party!

Anyway, I’m thankful for those that invest in tomorrow’s church leaders. Be sure to follow Michael’s blog for updates on the experience.

Do you wish you were at middle school camp?  Want to start a food fight?

Thank You to Church Volunteers! (My experience at church today)

(Diana Sumpter)

Cheryl and I love to visit with other churches. We always learn something that can help us at Grace Community Church. Today, after attending the first service at our church, we visited Cross Point Church’s Dickson campus and it was a great experience. We enjoyed the music, heard a wonderful message by Justin Davis, and we were truly ministered to this morning. I encourage all pastors to find times to experience worship without the responsibility of leadership occasionally.

Perhaps the part that most helped make it a successful visit was our first impression welcome from a volunteer. Diana Sumpter met us shortly after we walked through the front door with a smile and a handshake. With a welcoming spirit, Diana quickly made us feel at ease in a strange setting. She gave us a quick tour, introduced us to other people, and made sure we were comfortable. We learned that Diana has been with the Dickson campus since they launched and is apparently just as passionate about her volunteer position as she was the day she started.

The experience with Diana reminded Cheryl and me how thankful we are for the volunteers we have at Grace Community Church. Each Sunday at least 150 to 200 people give of their time so that others can experience life change through the ministry of the church. The truth is that the structure and workings of a church are only as good as the church’s volunteers. We serve an incredibly amazing God, but He builds His church with people who are willing to love and serve others. The staff can and should do much to lead this, but regardless of the size of the church, paid staff is never enough to accomplish the mission.

Please allow me to say thank you for those who sacrifice each week to make the church work!

I’d love to hear from you. Do you serve the church in some capacity? Where are you currently serving?

If you are a staff member, feel free to give a thank you to those who serve!

Pick Up Your Mat and Walk!

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” John 5:8 NIV

In order to appreciate the value of Jesus’ command, you need to consider the culture of the day. Today, although some may feel we don’t do enough, there are limited opportunities for the physically handicapped to work and lead productive lives. In Christ’s time on earth, the handicapped were outcast. They lived off handouts they could obtain from begging.

In the above instance, the man had been crippled for a long time. Probably the only possessions he had were the clothes on his back and the mat on which he lay. The mat was almost a symbol of the only hope in his life. His existence was one to be pitied. There was no known cure for what ailed him (except Jesus), and even if there had been, he certainly couldn’t have afforded it.

Jesus had sympathy for the man, and with the spoken word, the man was healed. Jesus told him to “Get up!” take his mat and walk. Obviously, this was a gift greater than anything money could have bought.

Whenever I read this verse, this question comes to mind:

What mat am I holding on to today? What mat are you?

This man was holding on to his mat. It had surely become a treasured possession to him. He slept on it, rested on it, and watched the world pass by on it. He couldn’t have imagined facing the day without it. Jesus tells him to pick it up and walk. When Jesus was finished with the man, he didn’t need the mat anymore. It would take faith to trust Jesus and attempt to walk, but the victory was worth it all. Instead of a mat of hope, this man had the hope of Christ!

What would Jesus have you and I pick up today? What are you holding on to tightly as your hope?

Are you drowning in your sorrow, because you refuse to completely trust God? Are you moping about the setbacks of your life, because you have failed to accept His grace? Are you suffering from the sin that has wrecked everything around you, because you won’t submit yourself to accountability? Do you hold back from committing to God because you are afraid He won’t accept you?

Whatever you are holding on to tighter than your faith, I believe Jesus would say, “Pick up your mat and walk!” Trust Him with that in which you currently trust the most. Permit Him to see you through the difficult days of life. Allow Him to carry your burdens, strengthen your walk and brighten your hope for the future.

Jesus wants to help you. Listen for His command to pick up your mat and walk!

What is that one thing you’ve never been able to let go of, but know you need to do so?

Jeremiah 18, Part 5

Then the LORD gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. Jeremiah 18:5-6 NLT

I’m not going to ask today if you agree with what God is allowing or doing in your life right now, but I do want to ask this question, will you give Him permission to do it? A better question might be, does He have the right to do it?

My son made a sand castle once at the beach. I thought he did a super job with it. People would pass it by as they walked the beach and comment how good it was. He wasn’t happy with it, so he smashed it and started over. I didn’t stop him. It was his sand castle.

God made you. He shaped your life. He’s been in control of every moment of your life. He hasn’t caused all the bad things that have happened to you.  Many of those happened simply because we live in a messed up world, but He certainly had to allow them and will choose to use them for an ultimate good if you allow Him to do so.  He has a plan for your life. He knows what He wants you to look like in the end. The question of this post is: Doesn’t He have a right to do with His creation as He chooses?

If you aren’t happy with your life right now, I want to encourage you to talk with your Creator. Tell Him your concerns.  Ask Him for changes that line up with His desires for your life. He may allow them but, always keep in mind, if God says “No”, the ultimate role of a follower of Christ is to accept His will for your life. He made you and has a right to shape what He made.

If you could ask God to change one are of your life, what would it be?
(I will conclude this series next Monday through Friday.)